Downsizing U.S. ambitions

So you wish there was some way to somehow magically guarantee an endless series of green lights as you drive across town, always remaining in constant motion toward your destination? Well, I got it and you can borrow it. All you have to do is have a text you want to send really badly while you’re driving. This means you’re actually kind of hoping for a red light or two, so as to safely compose and send your message while stopped. If this is your situation, the Universe will be more than happy to thwart your desires with Murphy’s Law of Never-Ending Green Lights, so you never get the chance to complete your texting assignment. It rarely fails. The more urgently you want to send that text, the more assured you’ll be that you won’t see one damned red light in the entire trip across town. Try it sometime.


Last week, the shuttle Atlantis made its much-ballyhooed and much-lamented final flight into space. All throughout the land, there was much wailing and moaning about what a horrible blow this is to America’s self-image and how this all signifies the end of the U.S. as a superpower and so on. I’m not saying this isn’t the case. I will say—OK. So what?

Countries that can afford space programs are countries that are flush with capital and credit. Right now, that ain’t us. Back in the ’60s and ’70s, that was us. In case the wailers and the moaners haven’t noticed, we are up to our collarbones in red ink, and it’s not easy to justify the billions needed to diddle around in space when such is reality. Is it us saying that we’re never going back to the moon, Mars, and beyond? Not really. It’s us acknowledging that we got some pressing matters here at home, and that right now, we need the dinero directed at more earthly concerns. Does it mean that we’re done with space and NASA and all that astronautical jazz? Not necessarily. It means that we’re taking a much needed time-out for getting the books in order and maybe repairing a bridge or two or 7,000. We were jacked with cash 40 years ago, or so it would seem. That’s when a country can fart around with extravagances like space travel. Now, not so much. OK. Fine. Better we acknowledge this reality and deal accordingly than not acknowledge and keep tossing billions down the toilet at a time when that looks more and more insane.

And yes, it does say a lot that the Chinese are very likely going to surge ahead in terms of space. We owe them billions and billions of dollars; it’s China that’s now “flush,” in terms of world economies. Check their space budget. Check ours. Any questions as to who’s solid and who’s leaking a bit of oil?